A trust is a fiduciary relationship in which one party (known as the trust creator or grantor) gives a second party (known as the trustee) the right to hold title to property for the benefit of a third party (known as the beneficiary). There are many different types of trusts based on a variety of factors. For example, a trust can be designed to benefit minors or family members with special needs. A trust can be revocable, mean that once it’s set up it can be changed. Or, it can be irrevocable, meaning that it cannot be changed. A trust can be set up during the creator’s lifetime or it be set up after the creator’s death based on a provision in their will. Like with any legal arrangement, disputes can develop that are related to the trust. If this happens, it is important to contact an experienced Maryland trust litigation lawyer.
Common Reasons for Trust Disputes in Maryland
There are many different types of trust-related disputes that can develop related. The most common type of dispute is related to the how the trustee performs their duties. They are also challenges to the validity of the trust as wells as conflicts over interpreting the trust.
- Breach of fiduciary duty. A trustee is a fiduciary. This means that the trustee must fulfill their duties with a high level of honesty and care with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind. A violation of fiduciary duty occurs when a trustee fails to meet their legal obligations as defined by the trust agreement or by law due to neglect or willfulness. Breach of fiduciary duty actions are generally brought be beneficiaries.
- Trust contests. A trust contest is similar to a will contest. It is a challenge to the validity of the trust based on irregularities surrounding to its creation. For example, one type of trust contest is based on allegations of undue influence. Undue influence occurs when the influencer tries to persuade trust creator to change their estate plan to unfairly benefit the influencer. Undue influence can occur in cases where the trust creator was suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairment or in a weakened mental condition. Because of the difficulty in proving undue influence, if it is suspected, an experienced Maryland trust litigation lawyer should be consulted. Another basis for a trust contest in Maine is a lack of capacity. In order to execute a trust, the person must be of sound mind. At the time that they execute the trust, they must understand what it means to do so. A trust can be challenged if there is proof of lack of capacity.
- Vague language. Trust construction litigation can be initiated when a term in the trust is vague and open to multiple or conflicting interpretations. The court is asked to step in and determine its meaning. The court will attempt to figure out the intent of the trust creator at the time they created the trust. Generally courts will only look at the language in the trust and not consider extrinsic language. However, if the language is ambiguous, they will consider extrinsic evidence to prove what the creator intended.
Legal Standing to Initiate Trust Litigation in Maryland
As an experienced trust litigation attorney in Maryland will explain, not just anyone can contest a trust. To contest a trust, the petitioner must have legal standing. This means that they must have an interest in the case. In the case of trust disputes, this means that the petitioner must be either the trustee, a beneficiary, or someone whose financial position was negatively impacted by the trust.
Consequences of Trust Litigation in Maryland
The consequences of trust litigation in Maryland depends on the type of trust litigation. For example, if the litigation was a trust contest and the contestant failed, then everything would pretty much remain as it was before the litigation, while if they prevailed, the trust would likely be dissolved. Contact an experienced trust litigation attorney serving Maryland to discuss the possible outcomes of your case.